The Winnipeg Jets are sporting a bit of a new look this upcoming season. I'm not even talking about the new jersey they unveiled recently, either. Winnipeg underwent some roster changes over the summer. New faces are coming to play prominent roles, while old faces are headed for greener pastures.
It's hard to project just how this season will go for the Jets. They are coming off an appearance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs this past spring. However, their time in the playoffs was short-lived. Winnipeg lost to the Vegas Golden Knights in round one. And they had to watch as Vegas went on to win the Stanley Cup.
The Jets enter this season with some potential, but that potential could go either way. And with that in mind, let's take a stab at making a few bold predictions for the Winnipeg Jets ahead of the 2023-24 NHL season.
Josh Morrissey comes back to Earth
Last season, Josh Morrissey emerged as a top-pairing defenseman. His performances had him in the running for the Norris Trophy as the best defenseman in the league. He didn't take home the hardware, but his 2022-23 season was impressive all the same.
However, Morrissey will be hard-pressed to repeat it in 2023-24. This is not to say that the 28-year-old won't have a good season. Anyone who watched the Jets star last season could see the strides he made even outside the elite point production. But that point production will be hard to replicate. Especially without Pierre-Luc Dubois and Blake Wheeler on Winnipeg's power play.
Morrissey can definitely reach the 50-60 point plateau. Winnipeg has promising pieces that could aid in keeping his point production up. However, expecting the 28-year-old to surpass 75 points this upcoming season once again is a bit much to ask.
Gabriel Vilardi breaks out
Speaking of Dubois, the biggest move made by the Jets this summer involved trading the 25-year-old to the Los Angeles Kings. Winnipeg did quite well in this trade, receiving at least two players who are sure to make their NHL roster this season. One of them is 24-year-old former first-round pick Gabriel Vilardi.
The Kings deciding to trade Vilardi felt a bit cruel. It was one of those hard decisions we know teams must make if they want to acquire someone with the potential of Dubois. Vilardi just completed his best season in the NHL, scoring 23 goals and 41 points in 63 games. Giving up on him now had to have been a tough pill for Rob Blake to swallow.
None of that is Winnipeg's problem, however. The Jets should give Vilardi more opportunities than he received in Los Angeles. And I fully expect him to take advantage of it. Don't be surprised if he flirts with the 35-goal mark this upcoming season.
Jets miss the cut
In saying that about Vilardi, the Jets themselves are going to fall just short. The Winnipeg Jets will miss the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There are a few factors, internal and external, at play here.
Internally, Morrissey's drop in point production will come into play. Furthermore, I don't expect Mark Schiefele to score 42 goals once again. He very well may not even finish the season with the Jets. Same with Connor Hellebuyck, who should be elite but could find himself as a major trade deadline piece.
Externally, the competition for wild card spots should be intense in the West. The Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues are the biggest contenders in the Central Division. And don't sleep on the Arizona Coyotes, who could certainly frustrate teams this year. In the Pacific, you have the Seattle Kraken and Calgary Flames, with the Vancouver Canucks being a dark horse as well.
The Jets certainly could make the playoffs. It's not like this team is untalented. Winnipeg won't finish in the cellar like the Chicago Blackhawks. But it's an uphill battle for them, and it's a battle I believe they ultimately lose.